memorising, am I doing the right thing ? : LUSENET : Everything About Teaching and Learning the Piano : One Thread

Hi, I am an adult learner, have been taking piano lessons from a teacher for 3 months. I am half way through the Alfred level 1 method book as well as the pop song book and theory book. I learned classical guitar on my own many years ago.

My teacher does not have pedagogy qualification but have been teaching for 2 years, she passed grade 8 exam from Associated board of the royal school of music (ABRSM-UK). I have no doubt of her musician-ship as I have seen and heard her played but I thought I should get second opinions about her teaching method.

She has pointed out to me many things that I could not easily realise if I learn on my own such as playing the rhythm too loud, stacatto, legato. sometimes it amazes me that she could detect a wrong note or count even though it sounded equally musical to me.

I can read both treble and bass clef and have no problem finding the correct keys on the keyboard although slowly. I can recognise the basic block and broken chords. I can sight-read and play single hand melody (or rhythm) at my level at slower tempo.

Right now, it takes me average of 2 weeks to learn a new song (of my level) to play without mistake but lacking expression and pedaling. When given a new song, it takes about 1 hour of practice to play the melody OR rhythm at correct tempo without mistake. I need 2 weeks time to learn both hands !!

Sight-playing both hands is very very difficult, close to impossible for me.. one day she asked me to play a song I have not heard before, after trying for a few minutes, I told her I'd rather practice at home first. This reminds me of the posts I read about students refusing to play for the teacher, in my case, I told her I cannot play the song and I showed her how I practice at home, that is to play bar by bar, sometimes I had to play a single bar for 2 hours before my brain and fingers finally 'gets it'.

For the songs that I have managed to play without mistake, I memorised the fingers position , memorise the right instance to press both (left n right) keys together . I use the score only as cue. I cannot play without the score but I am not actually reading the score, I just use it as a guide to remind myself how my fingers should move. Am I learning a bad habit that I have to unlearn later ? My teacher told me that I am not suppose to memorise but she said that sight-playing (for both hands) will come as I learned more songs and recognised more patterns. She said that, thats how she learned sight-playing..

Thanks for reading thus far.. My question is really: should I change my method of learning ? should I concentrate to develope my 2handed-sight-playing skill? although I admit that I am having a lot of fun right now after my learning effort yielded beautiful songs produced by my own fingers. But is this the right way to do it ?

Angela, if you are reading this, I want you to know that you are great but I think the opinions from other teachers could benefit both of us.


-- gary (, March 29, 2001


Hi Gary. Unfortunately most adult methods do not provide enough reading material to adequately reinforce each level of learning; new concepts start to pile up and "reading" turns into a laborious "deciphering" project! I highly recommend checking your local library for ANY "free" music to read at your level. If your teacher does not have a large lending library, you may need to buy more music. Try to balance the learning of pieces you REALLY enjoy with the daily sight-playing of tons of music at a level where you can play slowly and hands together (getting at least 80-90% of the notes and rhythms correct!). This may mean using books geared for children. I often go to thrift shops and "Value Village" and find books for my own lending library....for 1/4 of the price!

Invest in Clark's "Keyboard Musician"; here you'll find a more gradual approach to reading. (You may not fall in love with each piece, but set your priority on QUANTITY. Nothing wrong with using many Level 1 adult methods (Fred Kern's PLAY BY CHOICE, Bastien's Adult, Faber's OLDER BEGINNER, etc.) Check out Fred Kern's supplementary books (Choice Broadway, Choice Classics, Choice Country, Choice Standards, etc...) for more exciting and familiar pieces. Also check out Faber's extensive supplemental library (Playtime, Showtime, Chordtime, etc.)

Think of how a literate person reads words; no stumbling and picking apart each syllable or frequent stops and starts. Remember, as a child you learned to read using MANY, MANY books......the same thing works for music-reading. Sight-playing is always "impossible" when you're using material that is beyond your current sight-playing level! YES, it's hard to swallow one's pride and start at the beginning, but you WILL IMPROVE THIS SKILL! Believe me, I understand the challenge of developing this skill. You need patience, daily discipline, and whatever you do, PLAY BY TOUCH AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE! Force yourself to feel and find those keys! Close your eyes and find each set of 2 and 3 black keys, then try finding all of the D's, C's, etc. See my thread on playing by touch; you could line up flashcards and practice finding keys by touch. Above all, resist the temptation to LOOK when your fingers can feel and find. Good luck!

-- John Bisceglia (, March 30, 2001.

I'd like to respond the the answer first and then question. Thanks for the answer! I am an adult intermediate player (more learner). And I play just like the person who asked the question. After I've learned the music by reading it, I them attempt to memorize it. I've found that keeping the music in front of me helps me to 'keep moving' without error. However, 'sight reading' seems difficult for me. My teacher has told that I basically play by ear. It's strange to me. I've always asked the question of many of my teachers in the past, 'what's the best way to learn how to sight read'. Well the answer posted has really helped me! Thanks!!

-- LaSheall Washington (, June 06, 2001.

John's response was right on the money.

-- Music Educator (, June 07, 2001.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ